'Did you ever ex-perience...' He hesitated. 'A strange relationship with pain?' He continued. 'Sometimes I like to suffer without realizing that I like it.' He paused and his tone shifted from placid and precautious to ecstatic. 'I don't want to suffer but I do. I've got this pain in my neck, it's killing me. It's just there, it's like a sting. I never knew where it came from until I realized it was the result of an allergy. It took me fifteen years to be diagnosed accurately. I got a series of test ran out, met a couple of docs, wore a patch for a few days. Turned out I'm allergic to vinyl, would you believe it? Vinyl!' He repeated in disbelief. 'Anyway, I was given those pills to take twice a day. Lunch and diner, with food, preferably. Since I've got them I've been fine. But, sometimes, I forget to take them, and if I come across anything made out of vinyl, I start to hitch again. It's irritating, I scratch and scratch again, stronger, harder, longer. Sometimes up to the blood. I know all I have to do is to grab this box of pills right in front of me and down one with water. But I don't. That's the point, you see? I don't. I just stand there, and scratch and scratch again until... well I don't know what. For excitement? Until it runs out, maybe...'
'Are you saying that you find pain exciting?' I asked him with the calmness and detachment of a counsellor.
'No, I don't... I don't think it's pain that I find exciting. I think it's... the feeling that...' He hesitated once more. 'That I'm failing.' He stopped, his facial expression turned sour. He was looking sombre. 'When I was a kid, I used to play table tennis. I was terrible at it. I didn't play bad, I was actually pretty good. Had a nice technique and good reflexes, great eye to hand coordination, still have. But I was bad, couldn't win any game. I couldn't finish it off. I would often go seventeen-ten, nineteen-fourteen, twenty-eight even. And I couldn't finish it off. My mind would just... collapse. I wouldn't be able to get a serve across, couldn't return or hit anything neat. My dad always said sports wasn't for me because I didn't have a killing instinct. I knew he wasn't right, but I believed him, because I couldn't put words on those feelings.' His tone and facial expression changed once more, he looked irascible and possessed by some strange self-belief that what he was saying was the ultimate truth that could not be challenged. 'It took me close to thirty-five years to understand it, but now I know.'
'What is it?' I asked without conviction. My tongue had spoken before my mind. I said those words because the logic of the conversation commanded it, but, in truth, I didn't care for the answer. I didn't want to hear it. From that point on, my attention dropped and my mind got busy scheming plans and excuses to get out of this cafe, out of this conversation, out of this dangerous relationship, quick and neat.
'It's the pleasure of fucking things up that I relinquished. Seeing the line and never crossing it, beating myself up for being so mediocre when I have so much inside of me that I was born with, so much talent! So much brain! And so much desire to fuck things up!' He was screaming, rising on his seat and banging the table as his spoke, with a complete disregard of the other patrons in the cafe. 'You see.' He interrupted my train of thoughts. 'It took me all my life to realize it, but I'm not a good person, and I don't want to be. That's what makes me different!' He anchored down with the palm of his hand as he smashed the table repeatedly. 'That's what makes me better.' He continued with a perverted suaveness in his voice. 'That's why I must k...'
'There's your bill, sir.’ Intervened a shaking voice. It belonged to our waitress, or one of the waitresses who served us. I didn’t get a proper look at her earlier because I didn’t care for her. Now that I was trying to care, I couldn’t see anything past the veil of fear she wore in front of her. Her bottom lips trembled even after she stopped talking, she probably was staring at the man opposite me, but it was hard to tell what she was really looking at. With the greatest apparent difficulty, she moved her hand from the side of her hips to the back cover of the menu she was holding. She clenched it, her fingers became stiff, she looked up at the ceiling for a brief instant, then let out a long sigh. Then she opened her mouth as she was ready to speak again, as if this series of tic had summoned enough courage within her to load the necessary weight behind the order she was about to give out.
‘I would like you to leave now.' She sighed again, in an uncontrolled manner.
'I don't want to leave, lady.' He pronounced menacingly.
'But I want you to leave.'
'You don't know what you want.' He answered sharply. 'You work here the best hours of your day and you linger behind that cold counter of yours. You've aged but you're refusing to see it. You still wear a bra too small for your saggy bosoms and panties too tight for your forty something hips. You once used to be young and beautiful and didn't see the wind changing. You've lost most of your illusions about life. Your kids are rotten, their father an uncaring ghost. You will never be rich, you will never be famous, you will never be loved again.' He professed devilishly. 'You walk around all day in your tight underwear and your alluring uniform hoping that the sun will bring you a tall dark stranger who will rip that conniving smile off your face and fuck that pussy of yours silly behind the counter. I will be thy stranger. Fear not, dear lambs of God.' He rose. 'Thy dark sun falls upon you. Behold for your black king.' He jumped on her before a bemused audience. She screamed but did nothing to defend herself. I... I didn't how to react. I... I left. I paid my bill with embarrassment and worry. I left the demon and his lambs behind me, behind those doors, but I knew that, soon enough, those doors will open once more and let the devil out in the open. And I knew then that he must come for me.